A Writer’s Habits: Ryan Sheldon

What type of writing do you do?
I write short fiction, although I might experiment with more novelistic projects once I have the requisite time, courage, skill, etc.

Where is your favorite place to write?
At my desk. I find that I have trouble writing almost anywhere else — that said, locality isn’t nearly as important to me as creative energy. It’s much more about my faith in the language of a piece at any given time, and that’s not usually influenced by where I am.

What’s the first thing you wrote that you can remember?
An impossibly bad vignette about an evangelical preacher losing his faith in a motel room.

How early did you begin writing?
I first became seriously invested in fiction writing as a junior in high school, I think.

What’s your favorite thing that you have written?
I don’t have one. I invariably find each new project much more engaging and significant than the last, but that’s more contingent upon the thin illusion of progress or development created by sequence than anything else.

Where did you find your subjects?
A lot of them are born of single, resonant images, around which I construct narratives later — that kind of inspiration isn’t necessarily always ideal. But many come from my own life, and others still from headlines I hope other people have noticed.

What’s the best thing you’ve read recently?
Richard Ford’s “Sweethearts”. That, and an excerpt of Edouard Levé’s novel Suicide that was recently published in Harper’s.

What writers have influenced you?
Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, Sam Lipsyte, Junot Diaz, Lydia Davis, Victor Lavalle, Joy Williams, Nam Le, Amy Bloom, Deb Olin Unferth, Wells Tower, Aleksandar Hemon, Alice Munro, Jim Shepard, William Trevor, Alistair Morgan, Jesse Ball, Toby Wolff, Denis Johnson, Charles D’Ambrosio.

When you start writing, do you start with a complete story in mind or do you pursue an idea and see where it takes you?
I rarely start with a complete narrative arc in mind. I wish I could plot better.

How do you know when you’ve reached the end of a piece?
When I can’t look at it anymore.

How much do you consider the reader when you write?
Everyone who considers language considers the reader.

Is there a particular person who you share your early drafts with?
I used to show them to my dad, but I haven’t lately. I try not to show incomplete drafts to people because it’s a lazy practice.

What has your favorite writing class at Wes been?
It’s currently tied between Reading and Writing Fiction and an Advanced Fiction Workshop I took last year.

Are you involved in any writing groups or events?
I lived on Writing Hall last year, and I can say with some confidence that I couldn’t find or replicate the sense of community that developed there — and endures to this day — anywhere else.

Do you hope to pursue writing in the future? How?
I’ll pursue it any way I can. Beyond that, I have no idea. Making definite plans this early feels self-delusional.

Ryan Sheldon is a sophomore English and History double major also pursuing the Middle Eastern Studies Certificate and the Writing Certificate. A Writer’s Habits is a series of interviews with student writers on campus.

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